PELTIER: POLITICAL PRISONER? Peltier and the
significance of June 26, 1975, June 2, 2014
and June 13, 2014.
significance of June 26, 1975, June 2, 2014
and June 13, 2014.
Leonard Peltier has repeatedly referred to himself as a “Political Prisoner.”
If we do ascribe that term to Peltier, then the Incident at Oglala—the killing of FBI Agents Coler and Williams—must take on an entirely different meaning.
If one is to accept that premise—then that June morning, Coler and Williams in their search for a fugitive didn’t just happen to, or accidentally spot, a red vehicle driven by Peltier with passengers Norman Charles and Joe Stuntz, thinking one of them may have been Jimmy Eagle.
(As a matter of clarification, there was no doubt, based on common belief and testimony at all the trials and among all who live on the Reservation, that white men in civilian clothes driving late model vehicles with antennas, were Feds. No mystery or misunderstanding on that point. Everyone knew who they were shooting at.)
If the American Indian Movement’s actions were politically motivated, that is to say, confronting historically perceived wrongs against Native Americans, then their act, with Peltier at the moment as the tip of the arrow, Coler and Williams were instead, lured off Highway 18 and into a trap and an ambush: A deliberate criminal act motivated by radical political views, backed by “extremist” (today they would be called terrorist) actions. Coler and Williams were then trapped in a deadly crossfire by AIM members and after both being severely wounded, were summarily executed. That’s the act of political defiance, violence and terrorism.
In what other way can we view this political/terrorist act other than in this sequence of events if Peltier himself wants to wear the label of “political prisoner?”
If Peltier, as do many of his followers believe he is a political prisoner, then the deaths of Agents Coler and Williams can only be viewed from one other perspective. So then, not by inference, but admission, Leonard Peltier the political prisoner must also be branded an assassin. The attacking and assassination of the agents was then for some political gain, a violent act to demonstrate their extremist political influence, their ongoing violence-fueled radicalism with, and hatred for, the United States government.
Peltier, although born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, has said “…that I don’t consider myself an American citizen.” Peltier’s disassociation with being an American citizen is irrelevant because he committed the highest of felonies, murder, within this country.
On June 2, 2014 Peltier may have seen a ray of light, a slight ring of hope, peaking through the muggy overcast as he lumbered along through the yard at Florida’s Coleman Penitentiary, or perhaps he heard the news on the day-room television that the President had made an unapologetic exchange of Sgt. Bergdahl for five of the high-value Taliban detainees from Guantanamo.
Peltier may have jumped for joy learning that documented killers with American blood on their hands; acknowledged, unrepentant and dangerous enemies of the United States had, in a manner of speaking, received a grant of clemency.
However, the President made it clear that this was in effect an exchange of prisoners of war, and the President, as Commander-in-Chief, has the power to negotiate prisoner exchanges and repatriate hostages. The nature of the war on terrorism we now face is global, without defined borders or an easily identified enemy. No matter what Sgt. Bergdahl’s ultimate fate may be will rest with the military authorities.
Sgt. Bergdahl is not a Leonard Peltier. Leonard Peltier is not a POW.
Peltier and his supporters opinion will differ about the exchange, but then from what war was Peltier taken prisoner? From which battlefield? Was Jumping Bull on June 26, 1975 a paramilitary skirmish where AIM forces drew its line in the sand and killed two enemy combatants? One can easily recognize the absurdity of such an argument.
Peltier should not expect a Rose Garden ceremony and realize that Bergdahl’s situation and the release of the detainees has no bearing on his conviction for murder (and as Peltier has often tried to dismiss), aiding and abetting in the murder of Agents Coler and Williams.
Through the prison walls one can almost hear Peltier’s thoughts, “Hey, I only killed two FBI agents, why not let me out?”
Not going to happen; apples and oranges, and diametrically opposed circumstances.
June 13th marked an important date of only the forth time in American history a sitting President visited a Reservation (Calvin Coolidge, 1927; Franklin Roosevelt, 1936) and, much to the dismay and lament of Leonard Peltier, Bill Clinton in 1999.
It was during that visit, to of all places, Pine Ridge, that President Clinton, when asked about Peltier, responded, “Who’s Leonard Peltier,” which prompted Peltier’s famous characterization that “These politicians are such sleazebags.” (Footnote #1)
While at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota the President and First Lady met with the children, spoke with tribal elders and leaders and watched a “Flag Day Powwow” celebration. (For Peltier’s edification the Flag Day was for the American Flag, a tradition dating back to the late 1700s.)
What the President did say was that he was announcing plans to reform the Bureau of Indian Education to better educate native children and increase tribal control of schools, remove regulatory barriers to infrastructure and energy development, encourage the use of tax-exempt bonds for economic development, that his administration has given back land to tribes and worked one-on-one with tribal governments and cracking down on crime in Indian Country. (Fn #2)
What the President didn’t say was that he would give any consideration to an unrepentant murderer who made it clear to all that he would “…if necessary, do it all over again, because it was the right thing to do.” (Fn. 3)
The President should show Peltier as much mercy as Peltier showed Jack Coler and Ron Williams…none.
“In the Sprit of Coler and Williams”
2) Washington Post, June 13, 2014